Heavily praised as one of the preeminent science fiction writers of the 20th century, Arthur C. Clarke did much to reinvent the genre by building his fictions on a solid foundation of known scientific principles (particularly advanced physics and astronomy) -- a technique that foreshadowed the work of such contemporaries as Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick. Born in Minehead, Somersetshire, England, on December 16, 1917, Clarke acquired a deep-seated adoration for sci-fi as early as age 12, and wrote avidly for his school paper, but his family's dire economic circumstances forced him to leave school and take a job as an auditor for the English government. In subsequent years, the young Clarke both joined a science fiction and fantasy club known as the British Interplanetary Society, and -- in his spare time -- delved headfirst into authoring both science fiction short stories and speculative nonfiction essays on the future of space travel. Following service in World War II, Clarke earned university degrees in advanced mathematics and physics, which gave him a more thorough basis for his fictions and thus presaged an eminently successful career; indeed, beginning with the masterful novel Childhood's End in 1953 (which became a runaway best-seller), he achieved many a writer's dream by authoring full-time. In the decades to follow, his output quickly ascended to around one novel per year.
Cinematically, Clarke is best known for his genre-shattering work scripting (and authoring the short story that inspired) Stanley Kubrick's gloriously enigmatic sci-fi masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). A sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, appeared in 1984 -- this time co-scripted by Clarke and director Peter Hyams and adapted from Clarke's novel; perhaps inevitably, it literalized the earlier film and left many with feelings of intense disappointment.